Relentlessly Reckless
Author:Lucy Covington

“Yeah.” I glanced over my shoulder at him. He’d gotten it worse than me. One of his eyes was already swollen and turning black and blue.

 

 

“Well, you never do. At least, I never have, and I’ve been training with Quarry for over two years now.”

 

“Do you ever think it might be…” I hesitated to finish the thought.

 

“Too much?” he asked.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Jimbo laughed. “We’re in the hurt business,” he said. “If I get tougher and meaner and able to tolerate suffering better than my competition, it’s a good thing for me.”

 

“True.” I stopped in front of the showers and pulled my shirt off. My left shoulder was killing me and I had a little trouble lifting my arm up all the way. “But don’t you ever wonder if going so hard every day is wearing our bodies out too quickly?”

 

Jimbo shook his head. “I’m the type of guy who wants to live fast, die young and kick some ass along the way. I don’t much worry about protecting my body for my retirement years. And if I did, I don’t think I’d want to stay in this game very long anyhow.”

 

I sighed. “Okay. Well, I’m gonna hit the showers.”

 

“Later, JB.”

 

A moment later, I was standing in one of the stalls and letting the steaming hot water hit my head and shoulder blades, easing some of the pain. Every day, for the last couple of weeks, it had been the same. Hours and hours of rigorous, brutal training—

 

culminating in the daily “sparring” sessions which were really nothing more than a series of all-out gym wars that left everybody in various states of physical pain and injury.

 

I wasn’t used to it.

 

Coach Jansen used sparring in a very different way than Quarry. Jansen used to have us go half-speed, light contact with headgear, and then perhaps more intensity during training for a specific upcoming fight.

 

But in the new world of The Slaughterhouse, every day was one hundred percent, full-out, high intensity fighting. The pecking order in the gym was determined by who could beat the crap out of everybody else and who could take the most punishment without complaint.

 

The hot water continued to beat down on my tired body. After a little more time, I shut the water off and grabbed my towel, wrapping it around my waist.

 

Walking back into the locker room to change into my street clothes, I was surprised to find Virgil holding a syringe in his hand, flicking it with his finger. Next to Virgil, Tim was standing there in his boxers, with his back turned.

 

A few other guys were nonchalantly changing nearby, and no one seemed much concerned.

 

Virgil must have noticed my surprise, even though I tried to hide it.

 

“What’s the matter, JB? You never seen a B12 shot before?”

 

I walked by him and went to my locker. “I don’t think so.”

 

“Maybe they didn’t do B12 at his old gym,” Tim said, “which is why no one worth a shit ever came out of that place.”

 

Virgil laughed loudly, shaking his head. “Good point, man. Good point.” He swiftly stuck the syringe into the top of Tim’s thigh and then depressed it.

 

“Yummy,” Tim said. “I can already feel it working.” He glanced at me and winked.

 

Meanwhile, I was pulling on my pants and doing my best to ignore their taunts. It had become clear to me that those two guys didn’t like me at all, and I was just fine with that.

 

“What do you say, JB? I’ll give you your first shot for free.” Virgil grinned widely.

 

“No thanks. I think I’ll just stick to eating clean.”

 

“Right, because everyone knows how those motherfucking vegans are just taking MMA by storm.” He snickered.

 

“I didn’t say I was vegan,” I replied, pulling on a fresh shirt. “But as far as I can tell, whatever I’m eating, I still knocked you the fuck out like it was nobody’s business.”

 

Virgil’s smile disappeared. “Let’s do it again right now then, punk. See if you can catch me twice.”

 

Tim put his hand out and stopped Virgil from moving forward.

 

I didn’t even bother acting like I was going to fight. Virgil didn’t remotely worry me, and I knew for a fact he didn’t want to take the chance that I’d knock him out a second time. He’d already been humiliated and this was just some bluster to try and puff up his deflated ego.

 

“Cool it, Virg,” Tim said softly. “The guy’s just a flash in the pan. I’ve seen them before. Burnout cases.” Tim looked back at me. His eyes were cold and flat.

 

“Enjoy your B12 shots,” I replied, walking out of the locker room, nearly shoulder bumping them out of the way as I left. I wasn’t afraid of those guys and I certainly wasn’t interested in taking their so-called supplements either.

 

I had my duffel bag slung over one shoulder as I left the gym. There were still a small handful of guys working out, grappling in the center of the blue mats spread out across the main floor. Meanwhile, Quarry stood in the cage with large pads strapped to his hands.

 

A guy I didn’t know very well was punching and kicking the mitts in sequence to numbers that Quarry was hoarsely calling out. “One, three, one!”

 

A series of pops echoed through the gym as the guy punched and kicked the pads.